Monday, July 27, 2009

Birthday Weekend

It is birthday time here at Faerie Gardens. Wednesday was Diana's birthday, and we celebrated with a picnic at Mexico Point. Here special dessert was a Wattamelon Roll complete with candle (and vanilla ice cream for me who doesn't like it very much!)

Saturday was Josie's 13th birthday. Now I only have one preteen left! We celebrated with a special dinner of pepper steak, salt potatoes, and roast corn (which was for Diana too 'cause it is her favorite.) The we went to Harborfest for the pyrotechnic display with Diana's nanny and dad. We finished up the night with a dark chocolate layer cake with cream cheese icing.

Today is Ant's birthday, and we are going on a trip to Super Walmart in a little bit to pick out a special dessert for him. The kids love going to Super Walmart in the middle of the night so it should be fun for all!

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Fun!

Lia and Esme have recently taken up watercolor painting. Esme is glad to add another medium to her artistic endeavors and is pleased how her watercolor pieces have come out. Lia has been doing a lot of paintings on a large scale and gifting us all. She has also been using poster paints in conjunction with stamps to make designs and cards.

Esme sold some things and used the profits to buy a Pullip doll which she has named Giselle Xander Shelle. Ultimately she wants to add an obitsu body and new eyes and move into doing doll customization and picture stories.

Antonio has been going through bursts of high energy activity coupled with, to be expected, quiet and tired times. He has declared that he wants to know everything (he takes after me), and considering the new tidbits of info that he shares with us every day, he is well on his way to getting there. He has had an increasing interest in cars which has led to more of an interest in cars in Jo and myself. We have had lots of family convos about various automobile related things. Mabinogi is his MMO of choice at the moment.

On the book front, Diana, Es, Jo, and I have all enjoyed Bad Kitty and the follow up Kitty Kitty. Those books are so hilarious! We are looking forward to another one being added to the series soon.

The wii is still a big thing, but it seems to have taken on a different role in our life. It is now something someone turns to when they can't think of anything else to do. Sort of a last choice. Antonio also uses it to placate Lia when she is antsy. If she is having trouble being herself and eleven, Ant will notice and ask her to play wii, and it often gets her past a bad mood time.

Oh! I almost forgot that we seem to have entered another sewing cycle. It started with Zelly (Es's pullip.) In order to afford her, Esme had to do a share which basically means that someone else paid half the price for the doll in exchange for Esme sending her Zelly's clothes. So of course, Esme had to sew some new clothes for her. This led to all the girls sewing, and they have been sewing a couple of times a week ever since.

Also, the kids were gifted with SIMS2 for the computer from their big sis Em, and they have all been playing that but especially JoAnn and Lia!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Five Tips for Surviving the Summer

When I am around mainstream parents, both here online, and out there in meatspace, I often hear griping about their kids being out of school for the summer. Oh, some kids go to camp, and some go to daycare, but there are a lot of parents who seem to be very unhappy to be spending extra time with their kids during summer vacation.

This obviously isn't a problem here. We are together all the time, and for the most part enjoy it. Summer is actually the best because we can go outside whenever we want a lot more easily than in the winter. I have been thinking a bit lately about those parents whose views are so different from ours and thought I might give them some advice, so here it goes!

Five Tips for Surviving Summer Vacation with Your Kids

1. Change your terminology! It may sound simple, but simply changing the words that you both use and think can help change your whole frame of mind. Do not worry about surviving the summer, instead think about how to make sure that each member of your family shines through the summer! Summer is the perfect time to cement relationships with the other members of your family regardless of their ages. Focus on shining, and bringing out each person's best, and your positive attitude is sure to rub off on all!

2. Make a list. That's right. Make a list, and while you're at it go ahead and check it twice! List fun activities that you think your kids might like to do. List fun things that you want to do! List things that your partner has been talking about or excited about in the past (if you have a partner, if you don't, count your blessings that you don't have to consider their thoughts too. It is always best to look on the bright side.) When you need to get away, or the kids are bored, or there is a rainy day, or an unexpected sunny day after a rainy day, pull out the list! In our family, we all have so many interests and things that we want to do, but we often forget them when opportunity strikes. Don't let that happen to you.

3. Don't be afraid to ignore the list! That's right. After making a list, and checking it twice, remember that this is your children's summer vacation and perhaps the best thing that you can provide for them is freedom! Let your kids stay up late and then sleep late the next day if they want. Let them have breakfast at 1 pm, and dinner at midnight. Take a 2 am run to the 24 hour grocery for emergency ice cream. If you've planned a trip to the zoo, and realize at the last minute that a trip to the beach is what the kids really want, change your plans, grab your suits and towels, and head to the beach! You may not be committed to a full time unschooling lifestyle, but summer vacation is the perfect time to give your kids a taste of the freedom that unschooling kids have everyday.

4. Cultivate interests. School can be all consuming, and the standard curriculum greatly limits the things that your kids spend their time on during the school year. Many kids want nothing other than to veg out in front of the TV after they get home. When kids are feeling refreshed in the summer, it may be the perfect time for the projects and learning that don't fit with that standard curriculum. Does your thirteen year old have a passion for science? Strew your house with science related books from the library and enlist their help in stocking a laboratory in the basement. How about your ten year old who has been talking about trying out for a play? See what theater opportunities are available in your neck of the woods. If you can't find anything that meets her needs, see if you can gather together some neighborhood kids for an impromptu theater project.

5. Play. The absolutely best thing that you can do for your kids this summer vacation is to play with them! Share in their interests and their fun. Be a part of their lives, and you will create relationships with them that will last a lifetime.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sharing

A wonderful blog post that I read today...

Reward or Payment?

Just recently, I read a group of articles put out by one parenting site in which parents (self proclaimed experts really) posted their views on giving children rewards. The articles were contradicatory towards one another, and that was sort of the point. In terms of the article's strength, and the comment response, the article opposed to using rewards was the definite winner in the debate (if that is what it was.)

Now, I am going to share my views, and they just might surprise you. Yes, I am an unschooler. I believe that my children can and should do those things that they choose to do, using their own brains to reason out what is best for them, with me providing helpful, well thoughtout input and giving them access to lots of other input so that their decisions will be well informed. In general, I agree that children should not be given rewards for their behavior. I want my kids to figure out what they want to do and what is best for them, not do things 'cause I might give them something. So far no surprises right?

There is another side though. Our society works on a system where people get paid for doing work. I believe that seeing first hand how this works is the best way to learn about the system. In our house, this is where "rewards" come in, but I prefer to not call them rewards but rather payments. If I would like something done around the house, I may offer my child the job in exchange for a payment. (In our house, the common currency is paper tickets like the kind you get at the carnival which can be exchanged for various things and activities as they come available.)

Now there are a few things that keep this system under control. First of all, I don't offer the kids payments for things that most people do for themselves without payment like picking up after themselves. Second, I still ask my kids if they are available to help me with various things like switching laundry or making dinner without offering payment. Third, all my kids help in various ways getting the house in order after dinner just as part of the family without expecting payment too. No one is required to do this, they just want to be a part of taking care of the house and family. In other words, my kids are normal, helpful family members who do not expect payment for normal life activities.

Also, I do not ever require the kids to do anything for payment. This would defeat the purpose. In the real world, you can choose whether to take a job or not. I realize that some people may feel forced into a situation, but there is always a choice on some level. I want my kids to know this! Of course, if one kid says no, the job is often offered to another who will then get the payment.

This method has worked well in our family for a couple of years now. It is the best of both worlds. Of course as unschoolers, we are not offering our kids rewards for things like A's or school work or reading books! Also, if we had more financial resources, I would prefer to give my kids cash payments instead of tickets, but they understand that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

When Principles Collide

As an unschooling parent, I strive to live my life by principle as opposed to rules. I raise my kids to be the same way. It is agreed by many philosophers and social theorists that the highest level of ethical development is having a clearly developed set of personal principles that are logical, univeral, and consistent that one makes one's decisions based on.

Broad principles such as human life is more valuable than property may seem obvious, but when they filter down to every day decisions it can be anything but simple!

My thoughts today have to do with when one's child is making decisions based on a principle that one disagrees with. From an unschooling point of view, what is the right thing to do when principles collide? This can be a tricky situation, and I believe that the proper response is going to vary based on the child. This happened today, and I thought I would evaluate my behavior based on my principles without giving details that might violate my child's privacy.

First, I stood up for my principles. I have a principle that influences my life that says that I need to respond when someone does something that I feel is wrong. I do have levels of response. If it is something that I do not feel would be helped in any way by my direct involvement, I often respond with a general blog post. I am not responding to the person whose morals I disagree with directly, but I am putting my ideas out there in the hope that I might make someone think outside the box. If I do think that I could help directly, I will usually plant seeds. Most people do not respond to direct conflict, so I will very casually plant ideas in someones head so that they might think differently the next time. The third response is actually my rarest. If I am close to someone, and I know that they value my opinion, I will share my principle directly. My children fall into this category, so I did share my opinion. Because the principle being violated was one that I feel strongly about, I was honest and told her that I thought that she was wrong, and I told her exactly why. Note, there are others who might agree with her, but the issue was one that I felt strongly about, and I needed to know that she knew how I felt and why.

Secondly, I supported her. She was upset by this conflict of our views, so I held her and let her cry and did not express anything else that could be contrued as judgement. This was upholding my principle to support my children no matter what even if they disagree with me. Then I gave her time alone which I knew she wanted. This supported the principle of treating people as individuals and respecting their individual needs. At this point, being human, I was doubting my behavior. Maybe I should have said nothing. Maybe I should have planted seeds...

I thought that I needed to touch bases with my child and see how she was feeling and tell her once again that she has my support, and that I realize that people see things differently and that I will still love her even if this is something that we disagree on. I also talked a bit with her about why she may have the opinions and values that she does in a non-negative or threatening manner. The principle involved here was that it is important to have a close relationship with one's kids.

Now there is one more thing. I am ashamed to say that I didn't really listen to my daughter. Not 100%. So...the principle of listening and trying to understand others' points of view is coming into play...I am going to talk to her some more right now!